Linda Chavez

A Washington Post study of suspensions of elementary school children in the Washington, D.C. region, found more than 6,000 children from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade who had been suspended. Among these, 50 were in pre-kindergarten, 433 were in kindergarten, 677 were in first grade, 813 in second grade, and 1,086 in third grade. Many of these children either ended up spending days at home with little supervision or accompanying parents to work, according to the study.

And the "offenses" that booted these kids out of school temporarily included behavior as normal and unthreatening as one kindergartener kicking off his shoes and crying in frustration. In Fairfax, a neighboring suburban school system in Virginia, a student was suspended for possession of a controlled substance when he inadvertently placed prescription medication in his shirt pocket and then took it during a break. Surely, such behavior does not warrant a child being kept out of school for days.

It is as if schools have lost common sense and judgment. It's one thing to remove a child, even a very young one, who becomes physically violent and cannot control his or her behavior, therefore interfering with the ability of other kids in the classroom to learn. But it is another thing for a child to bring actual weapons to school or to use physical objects to threaten or harm other students. And it is a very different thing to point a finger and say "pow."

Such overreaction not only won't prevent further Newtown massacres from taking place, it will make it more difficult to teach children the difference between real aggression and mere playfulness. We won't be safer, just more confused on how to prevent actual violence.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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